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Blog Post – April 2013

The past month has been characterised mainly by the severity of the drought that has affected most parts of the North Island and some of the South Island. We have Miscanthus growing in enough different places to begin to get a good picture of how well it handles drought. I find the results somewhat surprising because it is proving to be much more resilient than might be expected.

The earliest plantings in Hawke’s Bay – now two years and two months from the day they were planted – are thriving in spite of the very dry summer that they have had. This is apparently because their deep-rooted nature has enabled them to access a moderately high water table.

But I had to admit that this is not typical of other sites where the drought has impacted on the Miscanthus to varying extents, but still with better production than can be found on the adjoining pastureland.

The following two photographs show the most drought affected Miscanthus that I have found and the accompanying picture shows the pasture just over the fence. There is no question which is the site that has higher production and it also protects the soil better.

The photo shows part of this stand as it was on 26 March.

Having viewed the Miscanthus around the various local places where it is now growing, I could not help wondering whether farmers who were looking to bring low quality supplementary feed up from the South Island, might be thinking that they would have been better to have a portion of their land in Miscanthus. If they had done so, irrespective of what the intended product was when they planted it, it could now be providing their livestock with some feed in this very dry weather.

We now have data running from November through to the end of March on the feed value of Miscanthus from one site and will soon be having that analysed properly by an agricultural consultant. The objective will be to identify clearly for farmer clients just how useful Miscanthus can be as a backup feed resource. Once we have this analysis completed, I will certainly post some information about it on the website.

Peter Brown